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Local students hone craft in Young Writers Workshop
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Former participant and current Writing Assistant Martin Cepeda leads a small group through writing exercises during the Young Writers Workshop.

When Pauline Cepeda came to the United States from the Philippines as an eight year old her mother insisted that she take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to improve her English and break out of her shell, so she signed her up for the Young Writers Workshop. Little did Cepeda know that she would grow up in the workshop over the next 10 years where her writing would flourish and she would eventually serve as a mentor for other young writers.

 “My mom made me join everything. She wanted me to open up and improve my writing and initially I didn’t like it because it just felt like more school, but eventually I began to enjoy it,” said Cepeda, who recently graduated from Pitman High School as the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper and will be pursuing a degree in international relations at Syracuse University this fall. “I’ve really come to appreciate what the workshops have done for me.”

The Young Writers Workshop is a program through the Great Valley Writing Project, a program funded through the California Writing Project that focuses on developing educators to sustain efforts to improve writing. The workshop is taught by Kaye Osborn, a former fellow of the GVWP, who has taught the workshop since its inception in 1990. By teaming up with local educator Kasey Giffen, as well as student writing assistants such as Pauline Cepeda and her brother Martin Cepeda — an editor for the Roaring Times who plans to eventually follow in the steps of his sister as editor in chief – workshop participants have a full range of writing experts at their disposal.

The 10-day camp, which focuses more on creative expression rather than grammatical technique, allows students to develop themselves through a variety of different exercises. From free write periods to idea expansion exercises, participants are constantly imagining, creating and refining their writing process.

“I really enjoy the workshop because in school you have to be really precise, but here you can let go and just be free to write about what inspires you,” said Stella Romeo, a sixth grade student at Julien Elementary.

Romeo particularly enjoyed the ‘found poems’ exercise which allows participants to paste words and phrases that they have ripped out of magazines to a piece of construction paper.

“It brings out this side I need to energize to keep myself positive and I’m definitely going to keep it and put it on my wall at home,” said Romeo.

By using words and language in several different capacities the Young Writers’ Workshop participants are not only learning how to articulate for academic purposes, but they are empowered to express themselves as individuals outside of the classroom.